Salesian boys hoops team shows why it’s No. 1

on January 21, 2010

Salesian High forward Desmond Simmons was winded. He’d played more minutes than usual, and the Haas Pavilion Court – longer than the high school courts he’s used to – wasn’t helping.

But playing on the big stage of the Martin Luther King Holiday Classic in front of a big crowd at Haas, Simmons said he hardly noticed he was tired.

“The magnitude of the game took over,” he said.

Simmons scored a game-high 17 points, and made some key free throws and defensive stops down the stretch to help Salesian, ranked No. 1 in the Bay Area by the San Francisco Chronicle, knock off the No. 2 team, Newark Memorial, 47-37 on Monday night in MLK Classic’s featured game. Salesian improves to 15-1 on the season.

Simmons, an athletic 6-foot-8 forward who plays like a shooting guard, is used to playing in big games and big gyms, as are his teammates. Salesian returned 11 players from last year’s CIF Division IV state title-winning team. It’s a deep team, too – coach Bill Mellis said eight players have a chance to start.

One of Salesian’s starters from last season, Kendall Andrews, lined up on the opposing side Monday. Andrews, who scored the game-winning basket in the Pride’s 65-64 win over Bishop Montgomery in the state championship game, transferred to Newark after the school year.

Sal4Andrews is one of Newark’s leading scorers, but he was held to three points Monday. Newark’s other leading scorer, Khion Sankey, scored six.

“That’s why they struggled,” Mellis said. “We were able to take them out of what they do best.”

Andrews did have one of the game’s highlights, when he ran down the court to block Devon Montgomery’s shot with a vicious spike that had the crowd buzzing. After the block, Montgomery bounced up and went right up to Andrews with a big smile on his face.

“I think that was a little personal,” Simmons said with a laugh, before adding Andrews and Montgomery are good friends. “I think (Andrews) really wanted to get a block on Devon tonight.”

The MLK Day win begins a big week for the Pride. Salesian faces league rivals St. Joseph-Notre Dame of Alameda and St. Mary’s of Berkeley this week – playing at St. Joe’s on Wednesday and at St. Mary’s on Saturday.

Salesian beat St. Mary’s in the Northern California championship game last season, and the teams could be on a similar collision course this season. St. Mary’s (13-4) is ranked third in the Chronicle poll.

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